Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Dark Passage (1947) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The Warner Archive has released all four of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall's films on Blu-ray this year. I've previously reviewed three of the releases, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944), THE BIG SLEEP (1946), and KEY LARGO (1948).

I'm happy to now review the last film in the collection, DARK PASSAGE (1947).

I saw DARK PASSAGE for the first time in many years at the 2015 Noir City Film Festival, with Stephen Bogart in attendance. While I've liked the other Bogart-Bacall films since I was a young classic film fan, DARK PASSAGE is one which has only grown on me more recently. I've found I'm now more willing to suspend disbelief, and simultaneously I've gained an appreciation for the film's noir style and great location shooting -- in this case in San Francisco.

Bogart plays Vincent Parry, who escapes San Quentin, where he was serving time for his wife's murder. He's picked up by Irene Jansen (Bacall), who improbably wants to help Vincent. She sympathizes as her own father was unjustly convicted of murder. Small world!

A nice guy cabbie (Tom D'Andrea) takes Vincent to a disreputable plastic surgeon (Houseley Stevenson) who rearranges his appearance for a couple hundred bucks. Since the movie begins shot from Vincent's first person view and then shows him covered in bandages, it's quite a ways into the movie before we actually see Humphrey Bogart. It's worth noting this film was released the same year as LADY IN THE LAKE (1947), which also famously used first person cinematography.

Vincent gets to work solving his wife's murder, as well as the murder of a good friend, all while falling for Irene.

It's a fairly crazy story, not least due to its very abrupt ending, but it's also good fun. Bogart and Bacall are always a charismatic team, and the interaction of their characters is quite appealing. They're well supported by Agnes Moorehead, Bruce Bennett, and Douglas Kennedy.

Another plus is the great use of Mercer and Whiting's classic song "Too Marvelous For Words," originally written for the Warner Bros. film READY, WILLING & ABLE (1937).

DARK PASSAGE was written and directed by Delmer Daves, based on a novel by David Goodis. It was filmed in black and white by Sid Hickox. The running time is 106 minutes.

The Blu-ray is crisp and clear. The disc includes a trailer, cartoon, and a brief "making of" featurette, all carried over from the original WB DVD release.

Now that all four Bogart-Bacall films are out on Blu-ray, I wouldn't be surprised if the Warner Archive eventually releases them in a collection. Whether acquired singly or together, these Blu-rays are beautiful and well worth picking up.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.


Blogger Bill O said...

If one can still break down things by gender, this seems to be a fav more among women. Bogart's his least "Bogey" here - sensitive, helpless, infantile. Even drinks from a sippy cup. Always thought he spends so much time bandaged so as to ease the audience into his aged appearance opposite his child bride. His surgeon even says his new face will make him "look older."

The novel's author sued tv's Fugitive over similarities. He won something, but didn't live to collect. Ironically, in the last Fugitive, Kimble's freed by a woman who always believed in him, attended his trial every day....

2:55 AM  
Blogger john k said...

Have not seen DARK PASSAGE in ages so I was very pleased to get the lovely
Warners Blu Ray.
One of my fave character actors Rory Mallinson has a bit more to do than usual,so that's
nice.The real bonus was the cartoon classic "Slick Hare"...Bugs Bunny in high definition
it just cannot get any better than that.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

It's not hard to find people who like this best of the four Bogart/Bacall movies. I'm not saying that's me--I've always treasured THE BIG SLEEP most--but it has its own character of the four and I can appreciate why some favor it. Personally, I love that very romantic ending--only in the dreamscape of Hollywood...

I admire novelist David Goodis as a rich source for movies, but I think he was off with that lawsuit. Other than being wrongly accused, the protagonists here and in THE FUGITIVE don't really have anything in common and the real circumstances of the murders are different in each case. Bill O, aren't you stretching it a little in your last remark? She did always believe in him and attended his trial every day, but though she plays a part in the final two-part episode, she doesn't personally free him...


...and is not present in the climactic sequence. Here it's a combination of circumstances that finally resolves it, especially when Kimble's nemesis Lt. Gerard finally saves his life by shooting the real killer.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Bill O said...

THE LAW, as Lt Gerard was fond of saying, found in Goodis' favor. And the situations where Bogart was helped by perfect strangers for no other reason than, well, they believed him, was a Fugitive trope.It's not stretching things to say that Diane Baker in the Fugitive could be practically modeled on Bacall - who btw doesn't free Bogart either. At least Diane Baker helped put Kimble on the path to legal freedom. Not going off to Peru. In killing the one (armed) man crucial to Kimble, Gerard MAY have saved his life, but didn't free him at all.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

Bill O-I enjoyed your both your comments. I don't have any great argument about it either--I assume I'm reading a fellow fan of THE FUGITIVE here (it is my favorite TV show ever) and that neither of us would wish it away just because it might owe something to Goodis and DARK PASSAGE. I don't have any strong feelings about that lawsuit (had heard about it) and I guess if he'd been around to file one, Victor Hugo would have won as well. Literary/narrative motifs are rarely wholly original, nor need they be, and it's always seemed to me we respond most to the inflections within the individual work.

Your last post stimulated this thought about Richard Kimble (applies in lesser degree to Bogart here as well)--yes, it's a FUGITIVE trope that perfect strangers help him because they believe him, just as you say. It always felt like there was a good reason for this and there is; he is, in fact, innocent as he claims, and convincingly projects this actual innocence. So the decent people that he encounters want to help him--doesn't hurt that he is easy to like, attractive to women, helps others in turn, all those things.

Yes, I simplified the ending just a little, but as well as shooting the one armed man, Gerard also passionately prevails on the eye witness who had not come forward before ("we've put this man through hell for the last four years"...or whatever line that was that he said). It was satisfying, all things considered.

As for Diane Baker, I liked her, and she helped as you say. It's interesting--I think fans of the show sometimes have different opinions and would have liked one of the more memorable earlier women to come back at the end. But which one?

4:31 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Some interesting offshoots to the enjoyable Bogart film here from both Bill-O and Blake. I recently completed watching all 120 episodes of "THE FUGITIVE" and it took me a few years but it was certainly worth it. I had watched much of the series, including the conclusion, back when it was first shown on UK TV in the mid-60s. I agree with Blake that it was one of the most enjoyable series ever made.
As the series progressed and Kimble met some good women who had come to care for him and about what happened to him, it occurred to me there were several there who could have been brought back for the final 2-parter (just one among them I mean) but I guess casting doesn't necessarily work like that (availability etc). Either way, it was a pretty satisfactory wrap-up to a great four seasons.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to you all for holding down the fort with this fun conversation while I was buried in work the last couple days! :) :)

Fun chat on the Bogart & Bacall films mixed with THE FUGITIVE. Believe it or not I have yet to see THE FUGITIVE -- someday...

My favorite B&B film will always be the first one I saw -- TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT.

Thanks and best wishes,

9:22 PM  
Blogger KC said...

It also took me a while to get into this Bogie/Bacall flick compared to the others. This time around I was struck by the tenderness of their romance. Not gooey or sentimental, just warm with their mutual affection. Also love the location shots!

9:55 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Interested that you were also slower to warm up to this one, KC. I agree with your observations, once you get into it there is much to like.

Best wishes,

10:31 AM  

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